Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Purge: Anarchy [A Fat Jesus Quick Hit]

Let's be brutally honest here, 'The Purge' blew complete chunks. The concept was, and still is, intriguing. But the way they executed first film was wrong in almost every single way. The story was tired, they confined all the action to happening in one house and they didn't really take any risks with anything. Now we have 'The Purge: Anarchy.' From the trailers alone you could tell they felt they had to expand their horizons. A day of murder is cool when one house is getting terrorized. It's another level when you expand your playground to a whole city. This is where the sequel, sets itself apart from it's predecessor.

'The Purge: Anarchy' follows the story of five people who are strangers to each other at the start of the day. They are forced to band together once they are all caught out in the streets of LA during the sixth annual Purge. The first two are Eva and Cali Sanchez (Carmen Ejogo and Zoe Soul), a mother and her daughter, who are dragged out of their home by armored after the purge began. They are reluctantly saved by our third person, Sergeant Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo). He is out for revenge during this year's purge and is on a mission to make it to the man he intends to kill. Our fourth and fifth members of this unlikely group, are a couple, Shane and Liz (Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez). They are running from a group of thugs who have been tailing them since before the Purge began. They end up in the back of Sergeant Barnes' car as he is saving Eva and Cali. The five must now stick together and figure out a way to survive the night. With an extremest telling them to take back their city, a group of thugs being led by "God" and a demented butcher manning a turret, this is going to be the most brutal night of their lives.

This was the movie I was looking forward to when I watched 'The Purge' last year. Murder in the streets, psychopaths abound, pretty brutal violence, good character development and a decent story. All this is what the first movie needed but sorely missed. The acting, while not going to garner any awards, is perfectly acceptable in this film. Led by Frank Grillo who sets the tone for the film. I also thought Zoe Soul was almost the backbone of the group as well. The rest of the group was fine, but those are the two that really drove the action, as well as the character interactions. Speaking of the action it is plentiful and brutal. From moment the Purge starts there's rampant in your face violence. Bodies get ripped apart from bullets, vehicles are outfitted with flame throwers and wealthy people are killing at will because they can. The kills in passing are done well, while the tactical kills from Barnes are swift and fulfilling. The hand to hand combat Barnes' character brings is a nice contrast to the senseless violence and ads another dimension to the action. The story is alright as well. It expands upon the idea of "The Purge" while giving pretty good character development and making an effort to give said characters life. They become more than just five people fighting death on the worst night of the year. The overall feel of this is better as well. It wasn't a poorly crafted horror film following a family trapped in a house. I'd rather have this grisly, almost survival-like film. It suits the series much better than trying to use jump scares or building tension.

This film is far from a slam dunk, but 'The Purge: Anarchy' is a massive improvement over the first film. While not the greatest action film ever to be crafted, it takes the idea that was squandered in 'The Purge' and gives it some new life. The murderous action is a welcome addition to the film. The fact there's an actual story and some character development to back it up helps this movie out a ton as well. If you liked the first film for whatever reason, or if you're like me, and wanted to see the idea of "The Purge" done well, then this is a welcome improvement. Otherwise, this isn't gonna be the film for you in the slightest.

Neighbors [A Fat Jesus Quick Hit]

Let's be honest here, Zac Efron gets a lot of heat (here's a wrestling term 11 words in) for his roles in films over the years. But he's honestly not that terrible of an actor and has really grown out of his Disney star phase. When you can pair him with the people he was with in 'Neighbors' you get quite a pleasant performance out of him. All in a movie where you expect people like Seth Rogen, Dave Franco or Rose Byrne to outshine him. Why am I focusing on Zac Efron here? What I wanted to get across is, that even though he is a lead in this film, it shouldn't discourage you from giving this a watch. 'Neighbors' is actually a very fun movie.

'Neighbors' follows the story of Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) who have a newborn daughter, Stella. They are feeling alienated from their old lifestyle and being able to go out with their friends Jimmy and Paula (Ike Barinholtz and Carla Gallo). One day they notice they have new neighbors moving in, it's a fraternity called Delta Psi Beta. Led by Teddy Sanders and Peter Regazolli (Zac Efron and Dave Franco), the frat aspires to make its mark on Dela Psi Beta's history when they throw their end of the year party. One night, Mac and Kelly ask Teddy if the frat can keep it down. He agrees on the condition, they they never call the cops, but go straight to him. The next night, Mac is unable to get a hold of Teddy to turn the music down and Kelly convinces him to call the police. They try to send an anonymous tip, but the police officer identifies them to Teddy as the people who called it in. This marks the beginning of the ever escalating battle between Delta Psi Beta and The Radner's. 

I wasn't expecting much going into this, mostly because the trailer made this look like a very lackluster comedy. I love Seth Rogen and Dave Franco as well. But Rose Byrne isn't too big of a comedic powerhouse and Zac Efron isn't exactly filling the seats for comedy films either. Everyone surprised me though, as the main four have a fantastic chemistry and the interactions between Zac Efron, Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Jerrod Carmichael were side spilling at times. Don't get me wrong, Seth Rogen is great and Rose Byrne did a good job, but the biggest laughs this movie got out of me was from that foursome. The acting is fine in 'Neighbors,' for what this movie is, but the comedy is even better and that is what keeps this from being below average or mediocre. The story is quite alright too, it's coherent enough and has a lot more character development than I thought this type of movie would have. The supporting cast is pretty good throughout too as Ike Barinholtz, Carla Gallo, Hannibal Buress all play good roles and get time to let their comedic timing shine. The comedy isn't lacking either. It's produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, so it's filled to the brim it recurring gags, great one liners and awesome back-and-forths between almost every main character. There is some draggy parts, some scenes that didn't need to be in there and it might be a tad too long. None of this ruins the overall fun factor of this film, as you'll be hit with some good laughs all throughout this film. 

I really liked 'Neighbors.' It's not the best comedy of the year, but it's one that gets the job done. The story won't win any awards, the acting won't be the best you'll ever see in a comedy, but this is movie you won't feel bad for watching. Seth Rogen is endearing, Zac Efron delivers another solid performance, Dave Franco is getting better and better with each film and it's always nice to have Rose Byrne in a supporting comedic role. 'Neighbors' is just plain fun.

Lucy [A Fat Jesus Quick Hit]

'Lucy' is one of those flicks I had no intention of seeing, but then I ended  up watching it with some friends. I was not expecting this to be good. In fact, this is one of those movies, whose premise left me dumbfounded as to why this could even get made. This review is not going to review this as if it's an action, sci-fi, thriller, oh no. This review will done in the style as if I was watching a comedy. Because watching 'Lucy,' I can honestly say, that I laughed, more than any human ever should have at this.

'Lucy' follows the story of Lucy (Scarlett Johansson), a 25-year old American woman who is studying abroad in Taiwan. We're thrust immediately into the action, as Lucy is tricked by her new boyfriend Richard (Pilou Asbæk) into becoming a drug mule. Richard's boss is a Korean drug lord by the name of  Mr. Jang (Choi Min-sik) who is having Lucy, and three others, smuggle a synthesized version CPH4 throughout Europe. While she is being held at her destination, Lucy is beaten by her captors and the drugs' container is broken, letting it seep directly into Lucy's system. The drugs do wonders on her body, as she is instantly able to begin using telekinesis and has enhanced mental and physical abilities. This allows her to escape her captors and start to form a plan. This plan consists of getting the rest of the drugs back from Mr. Jang. It also involves getting to world renowned professor, Samuel Norman (Morgan Freeman), whose research into the human brain may be enough to save her.

First off, this movie flew by, as it's only 82 minutes. Despite it being the most unintentionally funny movie I've watched recently, it didn't take up all that much of my time. Everything starts to become funny as soon as this film gets rolling. There are the obvious comedic parts that they actually threw in there, those are mostly awful. The real fun starts when Samuel Norman, is giving a lecture and there's an over abundance of stock footage littered throughout. Including, but not limited to, cool shots of exotic rivers and landscapes, which leads into a nice moment where I'm watching frogs mate and a baby deer being born. The fun doesn't end there, because this stock footage is some sort of recurring gag throughout this. Inserted whenever Lucy starts to learn or Morgan Freeman is talking aloud. Then the drugs begin to invade Lucy's body after she is beaten up, this is where all semblance of logic and writing is thrown completely out the window. Not only does unlocking your brain's potential turn you into an android, it also makes you a emotionless, psychopathic murderer contained in a superhero's body. Seriously, Lucy becomes borderline God-like. You can believably write someone having telekinetic powers or even having the sonar-like radar dolphins have. But, I'm going to lose my mind and die of laughter, if you're gonna try to convince me, that unlocking a human brain can disarm a room full of thugs and proceed to suspend them in mid-air. Don't think for once second either, that I can suspend my belief, that with 80% (or whatever it was at that point) of my brain power, I can physically see, sort through and control data. Or that with  90% of my brain's power I can mentally travel back in time and see exactly how everything as we know it, came to be. It's like they wrote each percentage jump, as over the top as possible, and I bought into the comedy aspect of all this hook, line and sinker. Also there is almost nothing positive in this movie. There is no character development, acting skills, fun music, decent action or good dialogue. If the story and writing wasn't so unintentionally hilarious, this would be my worst movie of the year to date. Side note: the fact that I can go to Staples, buy a flash drive and then store all of the universe's knowledge on it, is hysterical.

I want to find the people who genuinely liked this film and shake their hand. If I had any hope for this film, or took it seriously, I'd be pretty pissed off that I wasted my time with 'Lucy.' This is truly a bad movie, only saved by the fact that I could completely turn my brain off, constantly ask myself what the hell is going on and enjoy each frame where Scarlett looks like she's holding in a nasty fart. This is a movie that takes a somewhat interesting premise, draws a line it wants to try and cross and then proceeds to blow up that line with a landmine. 'Lucy' is a great movie if you're drunk, or high, or want to see Scarlett Johansson in a thin white t-shirt. If you go into this expecting the next great sci-fi movie, I'm afraid I've got some bad news. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Oculus [A Fat Jesus Quick Hit]

I'm a big fan of horror films. Whether they're immensely good or just plain awful, I can usually have fun watching a given horror flick. I first heard of 'Oculus' watching Monday Night Raw one night, this is a WWE Studios film. I was intrigued, because it didn't look that awful. The story looked pretty original and it didn't look like it was going to be that bad. The problem is, this is made by the people who did 'Paranormal Activity,' so that means that this movie didn't really kick in until the final act, but by then it was too late.

'Oculus' follows the story of Kaylie and Tim Russell (Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan). As children their family moved into a new house and their father, Allen (Rory Cochrane), bought an antique mirror. Strange things begin happening to Kaylie and Tim's parents not long after the move. Their father starts to isolate himself in his office, while their mother, Marie (Katie Sackhoff), starts to become withdrawn and paranoid. Eventually, they deteriorate to the point where both parents attack the children. After struggles with Allen and Marie, they are killed. The police take Tim, under the assumption that he killed his parents. The kids promise to reunite one day to destroy the mirror. Eleven years later Tim (Brenton Thwaites) is released from the psychopathic hospital he was in and picked up by Kaylie (Karen Gillan). The promise between the two is kept as Kaylie has acquired the mirror, under the assumption that it was the thing that caused the family tragedy. The two begin to trek down memory lane in the hopes of finally finding out what really happened to them as children.

The biggest problem with this film is that nothing happens for the first hour. The acting doesn't mesh too well throughout the film. At times the mannerisms of Kaylie, played by Karen Gillan, are erratic and often over the top and unnecessary. This could be due to the direction or it could just be the sign of a bad acting job. You don't really get too much insight in Tim either, so it's hard to see him as anything other than a crazy person, who could turn out to not be crazy. They are the only two you remotely need to know about, so you can already tell the character building for the rest of the cast is top notch. (This is sarcasm. I feel I need to put this here.) The scenes are also kinda wonky to me. The flashbacks and flash-forwards between the story-lines are often badly done. I feel like they did too much jumping for almost no reason. The last act of the movie showcases the idea of blending the two story-lines together well, but by that point I hardly cared and just wanted the film to end. The story, overall, is pretty alright too. I didn't mind the idea of setting a supernatural story in two separate times and then melding it all together into one. The problem is that by the time all the action started happening I was bored. This film isn't long, so this all on the writing and acting. I started to just stop caring about what was happening. Not to mention, a mind control mirror isn't all that scary to begin with. The freaky mind tricks were cool at first and there were a few creepy spots. They then start to recycle ideas, the acting gets more tiresome and the story just kinda plays out. The music is fine too, but it also starts to get repetitive and annoying. Especially one particular track that sounds like a watered down version of the 'Inception' noise. You all know the noise, you all do.

I really wanted to like this. There were times, especially the last thirty minutes or so, it hit its stride and salvaged this film from being a complete bore to me. Unfortunately, the first part of this film is almost unbearable. The acting is a chore to watch at times and the time jumps aren't done very well. 'Oculus' is is a film that had the right idea and intriguing story, but implemented almost everything else the wrong way. You can add annoying music and lack of synergy, to the list of hings that doomed this film from get go. If you can get into this more power to you, but 'Oculus' is a film that I never want to see again.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles [A Fat Jesus Quick Hit]

Let's just get this out of the way, I don't like Michael Bay. As a producer, director, whatever else he does in the realm of film. I dislike the man and the products he puts on screen. I was kinda almost excited about 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' until I heard that he was involved. I watched the cartoon as a kid in the early 2000s and I even enjoy the campiness of the first three live action films. Just like the 'Transformers' series, I was worried that Bay would turn it into a spectacle rather than a film. A film full of CGI, but ultimately hollow. Well, that's exactly what you get with this and it really does disappoint me.

'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' follows the story of April O'Neil (Megan Fox) as she is a struggling news reporter in New York City, not happy with the stories she's given. One night at the docks she stumbles upon the Foot Clan, a mysterious organization terrorizing the city, in the midst of a robbery. During the robbery she sees a strange looking figure that thwarts the Foot Clan, but back at the station no one believes her. The Foot Clan targets a subway next and O'Neil goes to the scene, only to be captured. This time she sees four of these mysterious figures as they save everyone being held hostage in the subway. O'Neil spots the figures climbing to a roof top, follows them and takes a picture of them. Unfortunately for her, they notice her camera flash and confront her. The turtles, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael (Johnny Knoxville, Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher and Jeremy Howard), wipe her phone after she passes out. When she awakens, they tell her that she can't tell anyone who they are, but they claim to be the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." Thus begins O'Neil's quest to revitalize her career, find out who the turtles are and also what the Foot Clan is really up to in New York City.

This movie isn't bad, it's just not really good. Mostly cause it feels lifeless. The characters get almost no development, especially the turtles. They are regulated to over the top personalities so we can tell them apart in scenes. All this really does is make them seem annoying most of the time. They're the smart one, the funny one, the angry one and the leader. They aren't Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael and Leonardo that we all know. Then we have April O'Neil, who never really comes off as a reporter in the slightest. I mean I know she is one, but then only time she remotely does anything reporter like, was one scene early in the film. It doesn't help things that Megan Fox is a pretty limited actress, but I think they wrote this character for the other side of her story. That she's just the little girl who saved the turtles and Splinter as a child. Instead of basing it on the fact she's a successful reporter or skilled hacker or choose any occupation she's been involved with in the comics. There is literally no one else worth mentioning cause it's a revolving door of forgetful characters and actors. They even managed to turn Shredder into a glorified thug, rather than the main enemy of the turtles. The story was okay, I guess, but the dialog, acting and just the general way they portrayed the turtles, weigh it all down immensely. It has it's moments where it'll make you smile. The CGI is okay at parts too as well as a bit of the action. The terrible lines the turtles have scene in and scene out, the "acting" between Will Arnett and Megan Fox and the lack of a true bad guy in the film, makes this a chore to watch at times. I say lack of bad guy, because we don't really find who the real one is well into the film. Then they use the one we all wanted them to use, as a supporting role henchman. I hated that so much. Hey, at least this debacle is only an hour and a half, right?

There is just so much wrong in 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' its hurts. I love Johnny Knoxville, but is he really the best option to voice Leonardo? Could they not have made this into a better film than, 'Transformers: Revenge of Michael Bay Killing More Peoples Childhoods'? We're still going with Megan Fox as a lead actress? I really wanted to like this film cause TMNT has a ton of great potential in a lot of areas. They could've gone a ton a of different ways with this, but instead they chose to turn it into a mindless, CGI filled, popcorn flick. While those can be perfectly acceptable, this is not one of those films in the slightest. 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' is a movie that's, like I said, far from bad. But, it's even further from being good.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Chef [A Fat Jesus Quick Hit]

I like food, you like food, we all like food. This was the first thing that intrigued me about 'Chef.' Yes, it has a stacked cast, including supporting roles from Robert Downy Jr., Scarlett Johansson and Dustin Hoffman. But, what I was more worried about, was what  kind-of story this loaded cast would show me as I watched this film. I didn't really know what to expect out of this story until I actually started watching. Yes it's loaded with talent, but it's also loaded with a ton of heart. You don't get that with a ton of movies anymore, a truly feel good film that doesn't come off as cliche, even though it is a little bit.

"What if I just cook you something?"

'Chef' follows the story of Carl Casper (Jon Favreau), a chef, who has a chance to impress one of the biggest food critics, Ramsey Michael (Oliver Platt) with his work at the restaurant he cooks for in California. The owner of the place, Riva (Dustin Hoffman), wants him to play it safe with the menu and it ultimately causes a sub par review for Casper. While all this is going on, Casper is struggling to find middle ground with his ex-wife, Inez (Sofia Vergara) and get to know his son, Percy (Emjay Anthony), a little more. He also has to keep up relationships and friendships with his co-workers Molly (Scarlett Johansson), the hostess, Martin (John Leguizamo), his line cook and Tony (Bobby Cannavale), his sous chef. Things turn south when Casper discovers Twitter, sends an ill-advised Tweet to Ramsey and it leads to him quitting his job. Now Casper finds himself in Miami, where he grew up, with an offer from Marvin (Robert Downey Jr.), Inez' first ex-husband, to start anew.  This is going to be the summer where Casper reinvigorates his life, bonds with his son and it's all in an unlikely place for him, on a food truck.

"Tony, Carl's got a f***ing taco truck!"
"For real? Like with tacos 'n s***?"
"Yeah, I would assume."

This is one of those films where you're completely reliant on the story and acting. If the story's bad it doesn't matter how good the acting is. If the acting is bad, you could have the best story ever written and it would come off as lame. 'Chef' and Jon Favreau really did find the sweet spot in all of this. The casting was impeccable and everyone was pretty great in the their roles. Led by Favreau, Anthony and Leguizamo's fantastic chemistry, this trio in the movie is so refreshing to watch. The emotion and laughs poured through perfectly. The scenes they're in in the second and final acts of the film are amazing. I also expected nothing less from people like Hoffman, Johansson and Downey Jr. All of them are spot on in their various supporting roles throughout the film. Then you have the people like Vergara, who is now more known for comedy and 'Modern Family.' This is a nice example of her being able to blend drama and comedy well. Not saying this is strictly a dramatic film at all either, there is a ton of funny moments peppered throughout this film. You're not going to be laughing straight through, as there are some pretty emotional spots, but there was hardly a point in the film where I wasn't smiling. This is a movie, that is written very well from top to bottom. Fun fact, Jon Favreau reportedly wrote it in two weeks. That's just damn impressive to me. This all leads me to the music. I'm really into, at least lately, films with great music and soundtracks, and 'Chef' is no different. If you like Latin inspired music and Latin jazz, this film is chalk full of it and it all sounds authentic. There was never a point where I felt the score or music itself was annoying. They blended it all so well with each point in the film and it was pretty damn fun to listen to. Plus the food, THE FOOD! It wasn't just artsy fartsy fancy stuff. The food made throughout this film looked amazing. From filet mignon to a simple grilled cheese sandwich, they spared no expense, making me feel the urge to eat.

"What are you doing?"
"Dude, I'm putting a little cornstarch on my huevos, man. It's a little too humid down here."

For me, this is almost a complete film. The story is great, the characters are real and relatable, there's emotion and laughs, while the visuals are tasty. There are a few spots where the movie dragged on and a few scenes that probably didn't need to be in there either. But, I don't want to harp on those. I'd rather talk about how this is a feel good movie. You're gonna be smiling throughout, wanting to try new food, rooting for Casper and just plain having fun. I think I wrote this is another recent review. What is a movie, like this, if you're not gonna have some fun watching it? Movies are there to entertain us, make us feel connections and sometimes even hit close to home. 'Chef' is a film that clicks on every level and everyone should see it.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

22 Jump Street [A Fat Jesus Quick Hit]

'21 Jump Street' is a movie that I highly enjoyed. I went into thinking that it was gonna be a lackluster comedy, and came out of it praising it as the best comedy of 2012. Two years later they boys are back and bigger than ever. With the same writers, directors and core actors at their disposal, '22 Jump Street' is a rare sequel that is just as good, and at points, even better, than it's predecessor. Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are a wonder to behold in these two films. 

"Oh, hey, look, there's Korean Jesus."
"It's Vietnamese Jesus now, you racist motherf***er."

'22 Jump Street' is set two years after the events of the first film and follows undercover police officers Morton Schmidt and Greg Jenko (Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum). They thought they were going to a real college to tail drug deals, but instead are saddled with online courses. They eventually stumble across evidence that leads them to a drug deal going down at the docks. After a failed attempt at arresting the dealers, lead by a man known as Ghost (Peter Stormare), Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman) reunites the duo with Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) at what is now, 22 Jump Street. The team is now assigned to go undercover at a college and find the supplier of a drug called "WHYPHY" that killed a student photographed buying it. Seemingly exactly like their first big case, Schmidt and Jenko head off to college to infiltrate the dealers and find the suppliers, before WHYPHY spreads.

"Someone get the man some water! He's black, he's Been through a lot!"

This is a movie that I wasn't sure about from the trailers. I think I'm like that with a lot of comedies these days though. It looked like it was going to be different film. It looked like it was going to be far too over the top, when it didn't need to be all that different from the first. Luckily for me, it wasn't over the top at all. Most of the time it was almost exactly the same. The actors knew it, the writers knew it, the directors knew it and they let YOU know it in the film. And you know what? It totally hooked me in. The charisma between Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum is immense. Scenes involving Ice Cube are splendidly done. While the supporting cast, especially Jillian Bell, meshed with the main cast so well. The writing wasn't too lacking either. There were some jokes and gags that failed, but those are few and far between, as there's so much more that worked in this film. The recurring twins gag, the campus chase scene, the parents day, anything happening at the 22 Jump Street facility, Vietnamese Jesus, the closing credits, etc. There's so much to sink your teeth into even without mentioning the fantastic one-liners and dialogue. The comedy was great and the story, which is mostly the same is good as well. There's more development in new characters, while there's a few good scenes where they really got to let emotion shine through. It wasn't just all comedy, this movie had a ton of heart. The action wasn't lacking either as I highly enjoyed the chase scenes, explosions and combat throughout the film. It was never too serious and always done in a lighthearted way. I love that about this film. The fact it was just fun, funny and easy to watch the whole way through.

"He has one class in Human Sexuality, and now he's Harvey Milk."

If this was how all comedic sequels were done, there would be a lot less flops in the comedy side of cinema. This film and the upcoming 'Horrible Bosses 2' are movies I've been highly looking forward to. One film I already love, this one, and I'm hoping they can do another good follow-up with 'Horrible Bosses 2.' Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are having a helluva year between '22 Jump Street' and 'The LEGO Movie.' While I liked the latter more, '22 Jump Street' is still one of the best comedies this year. The comedy, action, acting and writing is all done well. Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube and the rest of the cast reprise their roles really well and that contributes a ton to the overall feel. This is a film that doesn't try to be more than it is, a sequel cashing in on the success of the original. The biggest difference is, '22 Jump Street' nails it completely.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy [A Fat Jesus Movie Review]

I've been waiting for 'Guardians of the Galaxy' for awhile. With each new tidbit of information my interest grew. I was apprehensive in the early stages of that this would turn in to. All of that has since been obliterated, as this film is one of the best all around movies Marvel has ever put out. The synergy, atmosphere, story and characters they developed, in what isn't an Avengers related film, is quite amazing. Chris Pratt leads an almost ragtag group of actors in a Marvel action flick and makes it seem like he's been in character for years. 'Guardians of the Galaxy' is everything a Michael Bay film wants to aspire to be, but never will.

"I am Groot."

'Guardians of the Galaxy' follows the story of Peter Quill/Starlord (Chris Pratt) as he is abducted from earth as a child and grows up to become a space pirate under Yondu (Michael Rooker). Twenty six years later we meet a grown up Quill who is stealing a mysterious sphere-like object from the planet Morag. He is intercepted by Korath (Djimon Hounsou), who is sent my Kree Ronan (Lee Pace), but manages to escape with the sphere. Once Ronan is informed that Quill has escaped he sends his assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to retrieve it. Things turn sour for Quinn when he returns to Xandar and the person he is selling to backs out. While all this is happening,Yondu is putting a bounty on Quinn's head. Two bounty hunters, a genetically engineered raccoon, Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and a treelike humanoid, Groot (Vin Diesel), are already on Xandar. They begin to hunt Quinn as Gamora takes the sphere from him. A fight filled chase ensues between the four and eventually they are all incapacitated, arrested or both. They are sent to a prison facility called the Klyn, and the four band together once they learn of Zamora's plan to sell the sphere. They enlist the help of fellow inmate, Drax The Destroyer (Dave Bautista), and begin on what they think is a quest to sell a mysterious sphere. What they don't know, is the unimaginable power that lies inside and that the most powerful being in the universe wants to control it.

"They balled up my pants! Rude! They folded yours!"

We'll start with the story that ties in with everything that is happening in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Which is pretty cool. This isn't just some spin-off movie. Thanos is revealed in full, shout-out to Josh Brolin, and we also now know what the Infinity Stones do and why they are so sought after by the aforementioned Thanos. They've already announced 'Guardians of the Galaxy 2' and who knows who's gonna be able to be in that film as the Marvel movies keep churning out. James Gunn, the director of this fine film, is also signed on and I think he did a brilliant job with this film. There's a ton of CGI, but I feel like the cinematography as a whole and the overall direction was brilliant. The scenes in space are beautiful, the grittiness of desolate planets are highly apparent and I loved the design of Xandar. Speaking of CGI and things of that nature, this movie is chalk full of it. Some of the scenes it's noticeable, and one of the chase scenes was kinda iffy. Despite the few rough spots, the CGI was really done well in this film. The action, throughout was also done pretty well too and there was a metric ton of it littered throughout this. The fights set in space were fun and explosive and then when hand to hand combat was involved no one was slacking either. The seamlessness of all the visuals blending together with the characters and writing really made this a fun movie. If there's one complaint out of me about this movie it definitely isn't the soundtrack either. They set the tone early and every track that followed was so perfectly placed, it was beautiful to listen to. Not to mention the fantastic score to go along side this. This is probably the best score and soundtrack to a Marvel film that I've ever heard and it's truly one of the best parts of the film. This is a movie that is two hours long, but one that gets you so wrapped up and entertained you're not even gonna notice the time flying by. I do wanna touch one one thing that kinda irked me and it's my biggest flaw with this film. That's the way they used Ronan in the film. He's supposed to be this bad-ass super villain, but it more felt like he was a supporting character, that was just a placeholder until Thanos comes along to wreak havoc.

"I don't think anyone is 100% a dick."

There is so much other stuff to talk about that it almost boggles my mind. I don't think I have another "bad" thing to say about this film either so I'm already going to cliche this as a "glowing review." I've bought completely into Marvel and what they're doing with the cinematic universe. It doesn't matter if the film is main series or one that's kind of off the radar like 'Guardians of the Galaxy.' Marvel is going in for all their movies and I love it. We'll start with the writing and I really loved the way they got us used to these characters seamlessly. I felt like, by the end of the film, that I knew them. I loved that I had a connection to them as not just people on a screen I paid money to see. The way the audience connected with a raccoon, a walking tree and space thief, is truly amazing. The story was pretty solid as well. It wasn't just a bunch of degenerates who banded together and found out how to be good. It was a superhero story that felt more like an grand adventure rather than your usual "good vs bad leading to a final fight." Not saying that all this formulaic stuff wasn't there, but it's one of the films where I didn't even care one bit because I was so enthralled. All this is directly tied to the acting. This is the year of Chris Pratt and I've loved this guy ever since I first started watching 'Parks and Recreation.' Pratt is the true star of this film, no pun intended, and carries the film with each scene that he's in. He has such a good chemistry with all of his co-stars, including two that are merely CGI. His comedic timing is spot on, his emotion shines through and even the action sequences involving him were pretty damn good too. He is the glue that holds the cast together. But, that doesn't mean everyone else involved is slacking at all. One of the biggest surprises is Dave Batista as Drax The Destroyer. I'm a pro wrestling fan and I've been watching Batista for years now. Only a handful times have I ever been as entertained by this man. His comedic timing in this is impeccable and got a ton of laughs out of me. Plus, his action scenes were great as I think that's what came most naturally to him. Bradley Cooper as Rocket was great as well. It's not often that live action and CGI mesh so well, but Bradley Cooper walked the line perfectly. Never did I ever think in the middle of this type of movie I could get major feels out of a genetically engineered raccoon, or laugh at his antics. Well, maybe the second part of that. The other half of this duo was Groot, voiced by Vin Diesel. He doesn't say much, well anything aside from "I am Groot." When he does speak, there's always a laugh, smile or a welling of emotions afterward. Finally, Gamora was someone that took a little bit to get accustomed to out of these five. Her action scenes are great and he back story is pretty detailed in the film. Zoe Saldana was just playing the same green alien role that she only played okay in 'Star Trek' to me. She wasn't bad, but she really was the kinda weakest point of all five of them. That's not saying much though when they all have such a great chemistry on-screen.

"I look around and you know what I see? Losers!... But life's giving us a chance."

'Guardians of the Galaxy' is probably the best action film you're gonna see all summer. It's also one of my favorite films of the year so far. The story, characters, action, look and humor were all done exceptionally and I don't think I need to praise this anymore. It also felt like a lite version of 'The Avengers' and that's part of the reason it's gonna be liked as well. Amidst all the lightheartedness there's some real emotion and you really do get hit hard at points in the film. I think that's what really made me have a great time. It wasn't just the fantastic humor or the awesome visuals. It was the fact that during all that, we still got a chance to relate, feel sadness, happiness, joy or pain with who we were watching on screen. That's what movies are all about right? Having fun and connecting with your audience. Marvel, you have the formula down, keep 'em coming.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier [A Fat Jesus Quick Hit]

With 'Guardians of the Galaxy' getting released today and the fact I've been putting off some sort of review for 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' for awhile now, I want to wet my appetite for writing. Plus I get to revisit one of the better movies in all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This movie is a major step in the right direction, to me at least, after 'Thor 2' and I'm hoping it really sets the tone for all the Marvel films coming out in the coming years. Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan shine in a film you should definitely see before 'Guardians of the Galaxy.'

'Captain America: The Winter Solider' is set two years after the events in 'The Avengers' and follows the story of Steve Rodgers/Captain America (Chris Evans) and Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johasson). They are apart of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s counter terrorism S.T.R.I.K.E. team and are on a mission to free hostages. Romanoff and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) have other plans as they are also extracting data on the mission. After being confronted by Rodgers, while Fury is on his way to meet Maria Hill (Cobie Smudlers), he is attacked by the Winter Solider (Sebastian Stan) and it becomes known S.H.I.E.L.D. is compromised. Thus begins Rodgers, Romanoff and Sam Wilson/Falcon's (Anthony Mackie) quest to find out who is behind the takeover of S.H.I.E.L.D. and right the ship.

This was really a complete movie to me and I think the person I watched it with thought so as well. It wasn't as campy as 'Thor 2' but it also wasn't as dark as 'Iron Man 3' was. This could be due to Marvel just getting better rhythm with their movies, or at least the writers getting better themselves. Keep in mind these are the same writers as 'Thor 2' and I think they did such an immensely better job with this film. The acting is also pretty good as well. Scarlett Johansson had a helluva scene with Loki in 'The Avengers' and I think she did well in this film to follow. The action scenes with are doing hand to hand combat are awesome to me. Anthony Mackie was fine and I look forward to more of him in the coming films. All while Samuel L. Jackson was his usual Fury self, which won't get complaints outta me. The real meat in this film is all the interactions and back story between Captain America and The Winter Soldier. Chris Evans and Sebastian Stan are great, respectively, on screen and the story they built between them in the first two films is great. Finally, we can move to the action, as it, even for a Marvel movie, is actually pretty good. It's full of awesome set pieces, good CGI and fun hand to hand combat.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is ever expanding and as we've learned lately it'll be going well into at least 2018. With Captain America 3 already on track for 2016, we can look forward to another good addition to this series. All the movies are connected but I feel like 'Iron Man' and 'Captain America' are the cornerstones. 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' is no exception as it's story, characters, action, acting is all pretty damn good. Even if you're not a fan of the MCU, this is a pretty solid stand alone flick. Side note, if ya really feel like nerding out watch the first season of 'Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' It ties into part of the premise of this film really well. Either way, take it from me, 'Captain America: The Winter Solider' is more than worth your time.